2020 valedictorian receives Nanovic grant to research in G.K. Chesterton archive

Author: Nanovic Institute

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For Notre Dame class of 2020 valedictorian Brady Stiller, his Fall Break Travel and Research Grant from the Nanovic Institute built on relationships he had fortuitously established with archival trustees and stakeholders at the London Global Gateway.

Brady’s senior theology thesis, “Vocation as Story—A vocational reading of G.K. Chesterton,” sought to investigate the ways the work of the famed writer illuminates questions about free will and the human condition today. While Brady had already completed an impressive amount of preliminary research during his study abroad in London in the fall of 2018, he knew there was more to Chesterton’s story for him to uncover. While Brady was able to glean insight into Chesterton’s idea of “vocation as story” from his published works, he knew that archival collections would deepen his analysis. “Visiting archival collections of original notebooks, newspaper clippings, and artworks filled in the gaps of my understanding of Chesterton,” said Brady. “And his unpublished life also offered a window into the mind and daily life of Chesterton, whose vocational worldview I could see in action in his personal notebooks and original works of art.”

When he was first in London, Brady was able to meet Aidan Mackey, one of the foremost Chesterton experts and the man who independently organized the archive now held at the Global Gateway. He credits this connection and his relationships with professors and other Chesterton enthusiasts at the Global Gateway with allowing him to access the archive in Trafalgar Square before it was open to the public. After completing his weeklong research, Brady was more than pleased with the results of his time in London. Working with manuscripts, he learned how surprising discoveries appear in unexpected places.  “Some surprises which will be useful for my thesis are what I found in studying his notebooks and toy theater,” said Brady. “His notebooks are a window into his imaginative mind, which was always thinking up a line for a poem, a scene of a play, a prayer of gratitude to God, or an image to doodle.”

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Fr. Jim Lies, C.S.C., faculty member and director of Catholic initiatives and outreach at the London Global Gateway, says “Brady's curiosity, faith, intellect, and interest in research delighted the London faculty.

“Our efforts at the London Global Gateway to pursue the Chesterton Collection were much rewarded when we learned that Brady, the first person to explore the wonders of our newly acquired archive—even before it had been shelved—was selected as the 2020 Valedictorian,” says Fr. Jim. “The Nanovic Institute's creative and generous ways of supporting our students' travel and research is widely known; we see the fruit of it in all kinds of ways in London. Brady's research visit was among them and only possible because of the Institute's generosity. We're all so proud of his good work.”

Brady, who will graduate in May, is considering going to seminary in his home state of Louisiana. But he added that, no matter what he does, his work with Chesterton isn’t done—thanks to his Nanovic-supported research: “To have done this type of archival research with these particular collections so early in my academic career gives me hope that I might one day continue researching Chesterton.”